When things happen, really tough things, that figuratively or literally knock the spiritual wind out of you, and you can barely catch your breath, much less breathe out a prayer – what do you do – what can you do? What do you do when you can’t pray?
I’m sure there are some folks reading this who ARE NOT in a soul-numbing crisis, who ARE thinking that there should NEVER be a time when you feel like you can’t pray. Good for you!
But, I also know that there are plenty of the rest of us who are or have been in that awful place of pain, confusion, and maybe even anger, when you know your prayers are not going anywhere good. So, what do you do in such times?
Maybe it’s because of an unrelenting financial burden that hangs like a cloud over you no matter where you go or what you try to do. Maybe it’s because of the pain that comes from a profound loss that seems to paralyze your whole body with an emptiness that can’t be refilled. Maybe it’s because of a dream that once created energy and drive and motivation, but now has become a drain because it looks like it can never be fulfilled.
Whatever the specific cause or causes that brought you to the place where you feel like you can’t pray, I have good news for you. I’m not going to tell you that everything is “okay,” when you already know that it’s not. But I can tell you that everything WILL be okay, because of the promises and purposes of God!
When you’re in a place where there are no words, especially if you’re feeling unspeakable thoughts about not even being sure you want to talk to God, read Romans 8:20-23 again.
“Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:20-23, NLT).
And then read Romans 8:26 (NLT):
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”
God wants you to know that when you can’t pray you can ask another to pray for you!
Say, “Holy Spirit, I need you to pray for me… while I grieve, while I long for things to be different, while I hope and hang on, please pray for me.”
Recently I had a situation where someone I know was in such pain and distress that it was hard if not impossible to pray. I knew it was the Lord that directed me to say, “That’s okay, we’ll pray those prayers for you. We will carry this burden for you to the Lord, and we will continue to do so until your strength returns and your soul is restored.”
The effects of obeying that Spirit-prompt were immediate. The crushing weight was lifted even though the circumstance had not yet changed. That’s why the apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:2 (NIV): “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Or, as that same verse is rendered in the NLT: “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
Ask the Holy Spirit to pray. Ask another believer who you know cares and loves you to pray. Surrender your “I cant’s” to the Lord and to others who love you and watch how God gives you strength and revelation to keep looking and moving slowly forward!
And remember one more thing. The Bible is full of stories of how people HAD to OVERCOME FEAR before they could enter into the PROMISE. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua… just to name a few, all had their faith TESTED before they TASTED the FULFILLMENT of God’s victory. They all had to take STEPS of FAITH, right into the FACE of their FEARS, before they SAW the BRIGHT FUTURE that awaited them on the other side of that trial.
When Moses was unsure of himself, and unsure of how he was going to be able to do what God asked him to do, God gave him the secret that would guarantee success. It’s found in Exodus 3:12, where God said, “I WILL be WITH YOU.”
God IS with you if you ask Him to be there. God will never abandon you, especially when you are on the side of a huge emotional, physical, relational, financial, or spiritual barrier that blocks you from seeing how things WILL work out!
God LOVES to reveal Himself to, and even USE, those who are unsure of themselves, but are still willing to obey Him. God will use the times when you can’t pray to teach you more about Him and His people. And your day to rejoice will come!
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